Legislative Priorities for Health Care Reform

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As one of the Nation’s leading not-for-profit providers of behavioral health services, we strive to offer the latest evidence-based services to our patients, improve care coordination so as to not only improve patient outcomes, but also improve patients’ experiences in requesting and receiving care. To continue advancing these goals throughout the behavioral industry nationwide, we highlight several goals and bills that promote those goals.

Protect access to behavioral health

Access to mental health and addictions treatment services is crucial to support millions of Americans in leading healthy, stable, and productive lives within their communities. Similarly to other chronic diseases, substance abuse and mental health disorders often require comprehensive, evidence-based treatment in order to achieve positive outcomes and build toward recovery. Unfortunately, in contrast to chronic medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, all of which have decreased since the early 2000s, death rates due to behavioral health conditions have all increased dramatically since the early 2000s. Therefore, any changes to our healthcare system should ensure consumers have reliable access to mental health and addiction treatment services.

Ensure adequate funding to combat the opioid crisis

The opioid crisis continues to have immense impacts on our communities. Drug overdoses have steadily increased and are now the number one cause of death for Americans under 50. Furthermore, addiction to opioids is a growing and significant factor in the increasing number of prime-age men who have left the workforce. Today, investing in access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services means investing in getting Americans back to work, keeping families intact, and saving lives.

Incent the health insurance industry toward value-based, integrated care

By moving the health care system from one that rewards volume to one that rewards performance and value; we will save money while achieving better care. Today, one of the most significant drivers for cost is the fragmentation of the health care system. For example, persons with depression or severe anxiety and a chronic medical condition cost $500-$600 more per month than those with the same physical health condition without the mental health diagnosis. To better serve “high utilizer” populations, Centerstone has piloted an evidence-based health home model, which resulted in the following:

  • 70% of patients lost weight and moved from “diabetic” to “pre-diabetic” within six months;
  • 84% of our patients with high blood pressure saw lower readings in 12 months;
  • 61% decrease in hospital days and a 32% decrease in ER visits for engaged patients.

In brief, this common sense model saves money, while increasing outcomes, yet Medicaid does not have a direct billable pathway for this model.  We urge congressional leaders and regulators to fully fund integrated care (PBHCHI) grants and evaluate ways to develop a payment model for integrated care.

Reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

CHIP ensures that low-income, working families who do not qualify for Medicaid, are able to have access to insurance for their children. CHIP covers over 8 million American children and has received historical bipartisan support. As such, we support efforts to prioritize a clean CHIP reauthorization bill by the end of September.

Behavioral Health Legislation We Support


Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017: H.R.3032, Rep. John Katko (R-NY).This bill functions to cover marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under Medicare and authorize marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors to develop discharge plans for post-hospital services.

This bill has been introduced and passed by both the House and Senate in previous Congresses, but never together. National Council’s summary of the bill from the previous Congress is here.


Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Act: H.R.2687/S.1169, Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)/ Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL).This bill lifts the IMD exclusion by allowing states to provide medical assistance to adults (21-65) for residential addiction treatment facility services under the Medicaid program if such services are offered as part of a full continuum of evidence-based treatment services.

Improving Access to Behavioral Health Technology Act: H.R.3331/S.1732, Rep. Jenkins (R-KS)/ Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI). The HITECH Act of 2009 expanded efforts to establish a national electronic health records (EHRs) system by authorizing health IT incentive payments for hospitals and doctor physicians, but not to mental health providers. This bill authorizes CMMI to distribute incentive payments to behavioral health providers, such as psychiatric hospitals, Community Mental Health Centers, psychologists, social workers, and addiction treatment providers, for adopting and using certified EHR technology to improve care-coordination. The bill has been designed to generate a zero CBO score.


Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (OPPS Act): H.R.3545, Rep. Murphy (R-PA).  42 CFR Part 2 mandates that a patient’s records of substance abuse and/or treatment remain confidential. This bill amends 42 CFR Part 2 minimally so as to carve out a “treatment, payment, health care operations” (TPO) exception to the general rule of confidentiality. Like under HIPAA, patient substance abuse/treatment records could now be disseminated to the proper entity for TPO purposes without prior patient consent.

About Centerstone

Centerstone is a not-for-profit healthcare organization dedicated to delivering care that changes people’s lives. We provide mental health and substance abuse treatment, education and support to communities in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee and additionally offer individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities life skills development, employment and housing services. Nationally, we have specialized services for service members, veterans and their loved ones, and develop employee assistance programs for businesses of all sizes. Our research institute improves behavioral healthcare through research and technology, and our foundation secures philanthropic resources to support our work.

  • Over 60 years in existence
  • Serving more than 170,000 children, adolescents, adults, seniors and their families annually
  • More than 200 facilities and outreach in over 220 schools and community partnership locations throughout Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee
  • CARF accredited in Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee
  • Joint Commission accredited in Florida and Kentucky
  • On the forefront in research and technology

For over 60 years, Centerstone has responded to the behavioral health care needs of individuals and families, regardless of age or the severity of challenges. Our broad range of professional services is designed to ensure that sensitive, individualized care is available to everyone seeking help.

Contact Information

Lauren McGrath, MSSW, MFT-A
Vice President of Public Policy
10101 Linn Station Rd.
Louisville, KY 40223
Office: 502.589.8615 ext. 2459

Monica Nemec, JD, MPP
National Policy Associate
Washington, D.C.
Direct: (510) 703-5000